With the advent of cooler weather and longer nights, many people start turning to fragrances with heavier profiles, whether they feature dominant incense, spice, amber, floral, or other accords with more depth and volume.
One such fragrance perfect for fall is Chergui, a uniquely niche fragrance composed by Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake for the French niche perfume house Serge Lutens which debuted in 2001. Serge Lutens offers many well-loved niche creations, some more challenging than others, but they all offer that standout quality that has continued to set the house apart from many others for a few decades now. Ambre Sultan is probably one of their most popular fragrances to date.
But I want to focus on Chergui. The word chergui derives from Arabic and is primarily used in Northern Africa to denote a hot, easterly wind. And this fragrance is exactly that. It shimmers and glows with a comforting, embracing warmth keeping cooler days at bay. The notes listed are amber, hay, honey, iris, leather, musk, clary sage, rose, sandalwood, tobacco, juniper berry, and frankincense.
When the fragrance opens on the skin with gusto, rich sun-drenched hay fields with wafts of incense floating over the bales from a nearby village immediately come into view. Mixed into this heady mixture are puffs of tobacco smoke from some men playing a game of backgammon outside their home and the noble, passionate last breaths of the season’s final rose blossoms.
Underlying this are sweet touches of luscious honey and balsamic, ever so slightly camphoric shadings of juniper berries, perhaps alluding to some sappy wood burning in a fire somewhere. As Chergui develops, a marked powdery quality emerges thanks to the iris, but it is reminiscent of warm sand and wind. I also pick up something almost spicy like cinnamon, although no such accord is listed, which is probably due to the sandalwood.
In the dry down, Chergui becomes more of an amber composition, somewhat sweet and powdery, with a more pronounced muskiness. There is leather listed in the composition, but I never really pick up on anything leathery, although there is something tantalizingly akin to warm skin. A traveler who has visited the village after crossing the desert, worn out from a long journey in the sun, as the scents of the village encircle him? Still, what makes Chergui delightful is that even in the dry down, the fragrance is imbued with the remnants of hay and smokey tobacco.
Chergui has very good longevity and will easily last all day, encapsulating you in the coziest of skin scents. Every time I wear this masterpiece, it is indeed a remarkable olfactory voyage to somewhere far away, something we all need during the coming darker days. If you have never experienced this creation, I encourage you to seek it out and try it for yourself!